Study finds no evidence sugar-free soft drinks aid weight loss

According to a new study, soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners do not help people lose weight and actually may be just as much of a problem as the full-sugar versions.

Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of São Paulo contend there is no evidence to support weight loss, possibly because people assume they can eat more because the drinks are low in calories.

According to the report, diet sodas are “far from helping to solve the global obesity crisis [and are] a potential risk factor for highly prevalent chronic diseases.”

“A common perception, which may be influenced by industry marketing, is that because ‘diet’ drinks have no sugar they must be healthier and aid weight loss when used as a substitute for full-sugar versions, said Christopher Millett, senior investigator of Imperial’s School of Public Health. “However, we found no solid evidence to support this.”

 The study argues “given their negligible nutritional benefits and potential detrimental health impacts, the environmental impact of manufacturing artificially sweetened drinks should be taken into account. It takes 150-300 liters of water to make one liter of drink, it says, and there is considerable solid waste and cumulative chemical pollution.”

Global beverage companies have been investing in soft drinks, flavored water, juices and ready-to-drink tea and coffee containing artificial sweeteners in response to the obesity crisis and the outcry over sugar, according to theguardian.com.

The British Soft Drinks Association has dismissed the study, its director general, Gavin Partington, saying, “Contrary to the claims made in this article, scientific research shows that low-calorie sweeteners, such as those found in diet drinks, help consumers manage their weight as part of a calorie-controlled diet. At a time when we are trying to encourage people to reduce their overall calorie intake it is extremely unhelpful that products that contain no sugar, let alone calories, are demonized without evidence.”

Dr. Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said “Our extensive evidence review showed swapping to low or no sugar drinks goes some way to managing calorie intake and weight. It’s especially so for young people as they consume three times the amount recommended, mostly from soft drinks. However, maintaining a healthy weight takes more than just swapping one product for another. Calories consumed should match calories used, so looking at the whole diet is very important.”